Life at the time of the Corona

Or what to do when you’re stuck at home because of the COVID-19 social distancing mesures. 

There is not much we can do besides sleeping, taking walks in the park (while keeping our distance from other people), reading books, watching TV series or movies, or using the internet to virtually travel elsewhere. We took a little time to gather for you a few suggestions of places where you can find pleasurable distractions. Enjoy !


All libraries are closed but — if you don’t already have a good book collection at home or a nearby book store — you can always rely on digital books. Beside the obvious commercial options (Amazon, Audible, Barnes & Noble, Kobo), here are a few suggestions to find free digital books:

More precisely, if you want to read free manga online (see also a list on epubor), here a few suggestions:

Movies & music

There are plenty of free music streaming sites on the internet (Spotify, Pandora, Google Play, iHeartRadio, etc.) but personally I use mainly Internet Radio, Stingray, and TuneIn. 

However, beyond the commercial streaming sites (Amazon Prime Video, AppleTV+, Disney+, Hulu, Netflix, etc.), the free movies streaming sites are less well-known. Here are a few suggestions:

Also, if you are interesting in Japan and Japanese culture, I suggest you stream shows from NHK World.

Virtual visits

You can find a lot of places to visit virtually on Google: Art & Culture, but here are a few suggestions:




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Egyptian mummies: Exploring ancient lives

IMG_7086“Egyptian mummies: Exploring ancient lives” is the North American premiere of an exhibition created by the British Museum. Using digital image projections, explanatory videos and over two-hundred objects from ancient Egypt, it “reconstructs the lives of six people who lived along the Nile”. It tells the story of each of those individuals, their beliefs and the diseases they suffered from.

The original British Museum exposition (opened to the public from May to November 2014) was showcasing eight mummies, one-tenth of their Egyptian mummies’ collection. However, for its international tour the exhibition was limited to six mummies. It first opened at the The Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, Australia (from December 2016 to Avril 2017) before moving to Hong Kong in 2017, then Taipei, Taiwan (from November 2017 to February 2018) and it is now at the Museum of Fine Arts in Montreal from September 2019 to March 2020. The next stop will be in Toronto at the Royal Ontario Museum from May to September 2020.

In the early days of Egyptology, the only way to learn about mummies was to unwrap them. 19th century European collectors were even turning this into a social event with lavish “unwrapping parties.” However, the British Museum, with its strong ethics about artifact preservation, always refused to perform any invasive intervention on its mummies and its collection is therefore in excellent condition. Since the 1970s the development of cutting-edge technology, like combining x-ray devices with high-resolution three-dimensional computerized imaging (computerized tomography (CT) scanning) in order to create detailed 3D visualizations of the internal structures, has revealed much more informations that a simple unwrapping would have provided — while still preserving the mummies’ integrity. Combining the resources provided by medical science with those learned from anthropology and archaeology, has allowed the egyptologists to learn a tremendous amount of information about the life and death of ancient Egyptians: not only their culture and way of life, but also their biology, genetics, diet, diseases, burial practices and embalming techniques. This exhibition is illustrating all this through the exemples of six in dividuals (and their mummies) who lived in the Nile valley between 900 BCE and 180 CE.

Apparently the only official catalogue of the exhibition’s international tour was produced by the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney and is now sold out. However, the catalogue from the original British Museum exhibition is still available.

You can visit (and visit again) “Egyptian mummies: Exploring ancient lives” at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (1380 Sherbrooke Street West) from September 14, 2019 to March 29, 2020.

It is a superb and fascinating exhibition, rich in informations and artifacts. I enjoyed it greatly and everyone must absolutely see it. When I visited, in early January, the museum was packed (so, PLEASE don’t bring your five or six year-old Kids, as they might not be old enough to understand the complexity of such subject, and don’t bring your crying baby in its giant stroller !!!). stars-4-0

Here’s a teaser of the exhibition (available on Youtube):

More information and pictures after the jump >>

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Boucler la boucle

Ville de Montr-al - Arrondissement de Villeray - Saint-Michel -

Mumbai vue à vol d’oiseau. © Kiran Ambwani

Vendredi 6 décembre à 17h30 avait lieu le vernissage de “Boucler la boucle”, une exposition de photographies par Kiran Ambwani. Celle-ci “propose une version intime du quotidien des habitants des bidonvilles de Mumbai à travers le regard de ses enfants et montre la beauté et leur résilience malgré la pauvreté qui les entoure.”

En contrepartie au projet de Mumbai, Kiran Ambwani a également réalisé un projet de médiation culturelle avec des élèves de sixième année de l’École Barclay de Parc-Extension. Les étudiants ont pu ainsi s’initier à la photographie et aussi découvrir leur quartier sous un oeil nouveau, au travers l’objectif de la caméra.

C’est une exposition très intéressante qui nous montre la perception que les enfants ont de leur environnement. Cela mérite certainement un coup d’oeil (pour une fois que la salle de diffusion de Parc-Ex est bien mise à profit avec une exposition qui offre plus qu’une demi-douzaine de pièces et qui mérite un petit détour!). Malheureusement il n’y avait à peine plus d’une vingtaine de personnes au vernissage…

[ extrait de la présentation de Kiran Ambwani lors du vernissage ]

L’exposition “Boucler la boucle” se tient à la Salle de diffusion de Parc-Extension (Complexe William-Hingston , 421, rue Saint-Roch) du 6 décembre 2019 au 19 janvier 2020. stars-3-5

(Sources: communiqué, culturevsp, Photo Solution, Newswire, Radio Canada International.)

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La salle de diffusion de Parc-Extension (421, rue Saint-Roch) est une fois de plus l’hôte d’une exposition en arts visuels du 5 septembre au 13 octobre. Sous le commissariat de Mariza Rosales Argonza, cette exposition, intitulée Codex_Traversée du Silence est présentée dans le cadre de la 11e édition du Festival LatinArte.  C’est une “prise de parole qui transcende les frontières culturelles et temporelles pour rendre visibles la pluralité et la permanence des voix ancestrales en tant qu’acte conscient afin de percer l’invisibilité“.

C’est une belle “exposition” mais c’est plutôt pauvre puisqu’on n’y retrouve que sept grandes oeuvres par Dinorah Catzalco et deux installations audio-visuelles (par Rodrigo Velasco et Teo Zamudio). Cela vaut quand même la peine d’y jeter un coup d’oeil si vous passez par la bibliothèque de Parc-Extension, qui est juste à côté…

Photos du vernissage, le 5 septembre 2019, on l’on retrouve (dans le désordre) les artistes [Teo Zamudio, Rodrigo Iván Ramírez Velasco et Dinorah Catzalco], la mairesse d’arrondissement [Giuliana Fumagalli], la Conseillère du quartier Parc-Ex [Mary Deros], et les représentants de la salle de diffusion [Martin Hurtubise], du Conseil des Arts de Montréal, et de LatinArte [Mariza Rosales Argonza]. 

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Doodling girls

DoodlingGirls-covGhislain Barbe is best known for designing the visual aspects of several science fiction franchises such as Heavy Gear, Jovian Chronicles and Tribe 8. He also created the visuals for the characters of PBS’s cartoon TV series Sagwa, the Chinese Siamese Cat and worked as Art Director in the videogame industry. Doodling Girls 2017 is a collection of girls illustrations taken from his 2016 and 2017 Sketchbooks. (From the publisher’s website)

All these doodles were made for the fun of it (i.e. no commercial purposes) between January 1st of 2016 and December 31st of 2017. Some might have been inspired by pictures seen here and there, other are pure products of the need to fill a piece of paper. (Book’s introduction)

The reason I find difficult to read books written by people I know is that I am always afraid that I might not like them and have to make negative comments… I really want to talk about this book, but unfortunately I found it quite disappointing. So, I guess it will be a case of “Qui bene amat bene castigat”…

Above all, I must say that Ghislain Barbe is without contest one of the best artist I have ever known. He is incredibly fast and extremely creative. His art is usually quite great. I particularly like his character designs (although he can do great mechanical designs too). I still remember this young man, both shy and quite volubile, from Quebec City knocking on our office door with his portfolio under the arm. We were impressed right away by his work and I have always had great respect for him. After doing cover and illustration works for Ianus Publication/Protoculture and, later, Dream Pod 9 (Alternate Reality Cyberpunk, Heavy Gear, Jovian Chronicles, Tribe 8), he worked at CinéGroupe as character designer (on animation like Sagwa the Chinese Siamese Cat, Lion of Oz, Pig City), and then as concept artist as well as art director for Behaviour Interactive (on videogames like Carmen Sandiego and the Secret of the Stolen Drums, Disney’s Planes or Warhammer 40,000: Eternal Crusade MMO). He also illustrated Annie Bacon’s series “Le gardien des soirs de bridge published by Les Éditions Druide. His talent is well recognized.

DoodlingGirls-3The Doodling Girls’ illustrations themselves are quite good even if they are simple sketches. Barbe made those morning doodles every day to keep is drawing hand and his creativity sharp (and probably also to keep his sanity through the vicissitudes and trials of life — a widower rising three teenage girls might certainly have its challenges). I understand that perfectly since that’s what I am trying to do with this blog, trying to write a few hundreds words each day to keep my mind sharp and my sanity. Here, this book gathers some of those doodles that all share one thematic: girls — in all styles or situations, from the silly to the macabre. It is an interesting concept to make use of those doodles, and gather them in an impromptu portfolio. He probably got tired of working on other’s people books and wanted to do one just for himself (and his girls) — for the fun of it ! So, he self-published it (under the name Clay Book Press) using Hopefully more books will follow, like Doodling Girls 2018-19, Doodling Creatures (as he draws more than girls), or simply Morning Doodles, or even Meeting Doodles (as I know he was also doodling in production meetings!)…

DoodlingGirls-5If the artist is great and the concept is interesting and the drawings themselves are good, then what’s the problem? The disappointment lies in the annoyingly sloppy execution of the concept — although none of this is really the fault of the artist. First, the book offers very little introduction (less than fifty words!) and there are no page numbers, titles, descriptions, production dates or commentaries for the illustrations. This book definitely lacks text. Second, I am sorry to report that my copy has a defect in the printing of the cover (the cover is badly cut: the spine titles are actually on the cover itself and there’s a white bands on the left side of the back cover where we can see crop marks!). Very bad quality control! That printer should be hanged: defective copies should never make it to distribution!! Please choose your printer wisely! Third, the book was printed in the USA, purchased via and shipped by Book Depository in the U.K. ! That’s the worse example of a wasteful distribution chain I’ve ever seen. Please choose your mean of distribution even more wisely! Finally, that kind of book would usually sell for $15 to $30… $53.76 [although it depends on the seller: from US$ 31.72 on AbeBooks and US$33.22 on Barnes & Noble to C$ 44.17 on] is a little too much (particularly for artwork that are already available for free on the internet: Behance, Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr, etc.)! That’s what happens when there are too many intermediaries, each taking their share (, the printer, the seller, the distributor, the shipping cost, etc.). All inclusive “publishers” like are not always the perfect solution, unfortunately (but, I’ll admit, they are convenient). In a way, I don’t really mind because I wanted to encourage the artist in his endeavour no matter the price. Otherwise, it’s really too expensive! Sorry, Ghis! I am sure you could have done better!

All in all, despite its shortcomings, it IS a nice book. It is an artbook, so it’s not something you will really “read”, but it makes for a pleasing coffee table or bedside book. So, don’t hesitate to purchase this book to encourage the artist. However, if you want to see his best works, it’s probably better to buy one of his other books (like a Heavy Gear Rulebook for example)! 


Doodling Girls, by Ghislain Barbe. Montreal: Clay Book Press (, December 2018. 160 pages, 15 x 23 x 1.7 cm, US$ 33.22 / C$ 44.17, ISBN 978-0-359-20459-5. For readership of all age. (See back cover). stars-3-0

For more information you can check the following websites:

[ AmazonGoodreadsGoogleIMDbWikipediaWorldCat ]

© 2018 by Ghislain Barbe.

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Memorable music

MacrossSOngCollectionAfter watching on NHK World a documentary on the songs of Studio Ghibli’s animated movies (like Nausicaä or Laputa), I started listening to an old playlist of anime background music (BGM) and songs collections from my late-20s and 30s. I had forgotten how much those tunes could get stuck in your head (particularly “Konya Wa Hurricane” from Bubblegum Crisis, “Ai-Oboe te i masuka” from Macross, the crashing song from Megazone 23 Part 2, or any songs from Kimagure Orange Road). I realize that this is something missing from recent anime that I’ve seen: memorable music. I really miss that. And it makes me sad — and very nostalgic!

My playlist also includes a few hits from great J-pop artists like Aikawa Nanase, Glay, Globe, Namie Amuro, TRF, Yoko Kanno and even a few Enka songs by Misora Hibari!

Do you have anime or J-pop favourite songs ?

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[ Update – 2019/02/23 ] For the curious, here’s the full playlist (recently augmented)—and I have added plenty of links so you can sample them :

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Alexander Calder : un inventeur radicalMercredi nous avons profité d’un rendez-vous en ville pour aller visiter l’exposition Alexander Calder : un inventeur radical au Musée des Beaux-arts de Montréal. Cette retrospective des oeuvres de l’artiste Américain, qui se tient au MBAM du 21 septembre 2018 au 24 février 2019, offre 150 œuvres et documents qui représentent bien les différentes périodes de cet artiste multidisciplinaire. Comme d’habitude, je vous offre ici quelques memento de ma visite…

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Books of Ours

MBAMOn October 16th, after a lengthy trek in the Mount Royal Park to admire the autumn foliage, we went to the Museum of Fine Arts to have a look at a small exhibition about books of hours. Titled “Resplendent Illuminations” the exhibit displays Books of Hours from the medieval and Renaissance eras (13th to the 16th Century) but the interesting part is that they are all from Quebec (seven private and public collections). The exhibit, born from in-depth academic research, offers more than 50 artifacts (leaves, complete manuscripts, prints) and is held at the MMFA (pavillon Jean-Noël Desmarais – niveau S2) from September 5, 2018 to January 6, 2019.

Created for the Christian faithfuls (not for men of the cloth but for lay people), Books of Hours offered a collection of calendar of holy and religious feasts as well as passages from the gospels and prayers. They were used for devotion but also to learn reading. What’s characterize them however is that they were personalized with family information (births and weddings) and illuminated with miniature paintings (illuminations) illustrating the life of Christ, the saints or the Virgin Mary. Very minute and beautiful art.

It is really amazing that the faithfuls of New France would bring such beautiful manuscripts with them (or order them abroad) to express their devotion and that those books ended up being so well preserved. Unfortunately, to satisfy the thirst of modern collectors, such beautiful manuscripts were often cut open and sold by the pages (to maximize profits). That’s why many of the artifacts displayed are simple folio. I am quite surprised to see that most Books of Hours are so small, usually in duodecimo book format (each folio has been folded four times to make twelve leaves or twenty-four pages). A detail that I didn’t know: some books of hours were produced AFTER the invention of the printing press (c1450)… The exhibit display seven of those, where wood- and metal cuts replaced illuminations.

Catalogue_raisonné_des_livres_dHeuresThe catalog of this magnificent exhibit (and more) has been published (in French): Catalogue raisonné des livres d’Heures conservés au Québec, edited by Brenda Dunn-Lardeau. Québec, Presses de l’Université du Québec, 2018. 468 pages. $48 (softcover)/$55 (hardcover), ISBN 978-2-7605-4975-3. [ Amazon / BAnQ / Biblio / WorldCat ]

It is a small exhibit (only two rooms) but it is quite enlightening and well-worth seeing for all (ancient) books lovers. You really should take the time to go see it.

Here are some pictures that I took as a memento:

First room

Second room

More pictures are available on my Flickr album. View the legends for all pictures after the jump

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Un dimanche au musée

IMG_3412J’ai encore visité une exposition au Musée des beaux-Arts de Montréal in-extremis: en effet, l’exposition D’Afrique aux Amériques : Picasso en face-à-face, d’hier à aujourd’hui se terminait aujourd’hui. Comme toujours, cela en valait la peine (malgré la foule).

Je n’ai jamais beaucoup aimé Picasso (et l’art abstrait en général) mais, comme il se situe aux limites du figuratif et que j’ai toujours été fasciné par la vision du monde qu’il exprime dans son art, il m’intéresse tout de même. J’ai toujours interprété son oeuvre avec l’entendement que, la photographie ayant rendu le besoin de représenter la réalité caduque, les artistes modernes ont délaissé le figuratif pour l’impressionisme, d’abord, puis pour l’expressionnisme et même carrément l’abstrait (cubisme, surréalisme, etc.). On déforme la réalité pour exprimer et inspirer des sentiments. Picasso a commencé à peindre durant une période troublée du XXe siècle, alors ce n’est pas surprenant qu’il exprime des sentiments perturbés, dérangés ou dérangeants. Je me suis toujours demandé comment il pouvait réussir à déformer la réalité d’une telle façon ou s’il voyait vraiment le monde comme cela. Quoiqu’il en soit, j’ai toujours trouvé son art plutôt laid. Mais bon, comme je dis souvent à mon épouse, pas besoin d’aimer ça pour l’apprécier! Pour apprendre, il faut aller au-delà de ses goûts et de sa zone de confort.

Toutefois, ce n’est vraiment qu’en visitant cette exposition, qui met en parallèle des oeuvres de Picasso et de l’art Africain (dans ses très multiples déclinaisons), que j’ai finalement compris son inspiration. À cette époque-là, les artistes tribaux africains tentaient de représenter les esprits de la nature, le divin, la terreur de leur démons. Et c’est dans ces formes là que Picasso a trouvé sa muse.

Étrangement, l’art africain m’a aussi toujours fasciné. J’y trouve quelques chose de surréel, et, là où l’artiste tentait de représenter le surnaturel (esprit, démon), j’y vois une vision d’outre-monde, tantôt lovecraftienne, tantôt l’expression d’une science-fiction accidentelle (extra-terrestre, créature “star trekienne” ou “alienesque”, robot, arme klingonne, etc.). 

Et c’est sous le prisme de ces deux considérations que j’ai visité, et apprécié, cette exposition…

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